The story of a woman slipping on the ice is the perfect inclement weather moment in a romance novel. She slips on an icy sidewalk and is prevented from falling by a man walking behind her.
In real life, falling due to ice or snow can result in a variety of injuries including broken bones, sprained ankles and even death.
An important part of preventing a fall is keeping your balance.
Ed Istnick, a Tai Chi instructor at the Yoga Room in Warren, offers ways to strengthen your balance.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese low-impact exercise with movements that originated in martial arts. It is practiced for its health and relaxation benefits.
"Tai Chi can help develop your root or lower half. If you can strengthen it and make it flexible, then the upper half can be light and just sit on the lower half. The more you can relax the top and strengthen the bottom, it's got to help in the balance," said Istnick.
Istnick gave some examples of how Tai Chi helps the body to become more flexible.
"If you can exercise your knees, the sides of your knees, the backs of your knees there may not be a problem because all of the work may not be done by the front of the knees. When you root your heel, you engage the muscles that are more efficient in holding you upright. When you are on your toes you are prone to slippage, but you need a balance between the two of those things."
Istnick said that Tai Chi can help a person improve their balance in as little as two sessions, but he cautioned that there is no "magic pill" because everyone improves at their own pace.
Teaching people to be in the moment is a quality of Tai Chi.
"One of the benefits of Tai Chi is that it works with your right and left hemispheres of the brain," said Istnick. "The more you could practice moving a left to right continuous motion as opposed to jerky, erratic movements, the more you can smooth everything down. It forces you to slow down. That's a good thing. The best way to avoid accidents is not be there. If you avoid the fall, you win."
Wearing proper footwear for the weather conditions also lessens the possibility of a winter spill.
According to Hebrew Senior Life, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, wearing shoes with rubber or neoprene soles that have plenty of treads gives the wearer better traction when walking.
Dave Maloy, buyer and salesperson at Neal Shoes in the Warren Plaza, has noticed an increase in the purchase of slip-resistant shoes because of jobs at restaurants, hospitals and also for personal safety during inclement weather. As a result, shoe manufacturers have created more stylish slip-resistant shoes for women.
"A rubber sole is definitely going to prevent falls," Maloy said. "It won't eliminate them, but it will prevent them. Ice is ice. It's sort of like snow tires. It won't eliminate, but it will help you out. You still have to be aware."
Staying indoors is the ultimate defense from a winter ice or snow accident, but most people don't have that luxury. Dog owners need to walk their pets even in inclement weather.
Maloy described an ice cleat that would increase the safety of pet owners and walkers.
"It's like putting a golf shoe cleat on the bottom, and they just attach it to their shoe."
Spending a couple of hours clearing your sidewalk and driveway of snow and ice can prevent you, your family and anyone entering your property, such as a delivery person, from a potential accident.
According to Chris Lamonge of Chris Lamonge (Insurance) Agency in Niles, insurance companies do not require the homeowner to clear their walkways and driveway of snow and ice but the state or local government may require snow removal by law.
"With the snow there, you can't see steps or step downs," Lamonge said. "My recommendation would be to clear your driveway."
Just as having a plan of attack when approaching winter surface conditions when walking, you need to do the same around your home. This prevention could mean the difference between arriving at your destination or sustaining an injury that could last until spring, summer or beyond.